Transit riders, workers, and community leaders came together Thursday, Nov. 19, to oppose significant service and job cuts proposed for the MBTA. The rolling demonstration through downtown Boston ended with a rally at the State Transportation Building, and emotional testimonials from speakers about the pain these cuts will inflict on families and communities throughout the state.
Communities that rely on public transit have been shaken by recent proposals from MBTA executives to enact devastating cuts to the agency, slashing commuter rail, bus, subway, and ferry service. Public Transit Public Good, a broad coalition of transit workers and riders, organized the rally in advance of an MBTA hearing that evening.
â€œThe state has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. People need support, not a rollback in essential services,â€ said Lee Matsueda, Executive Director of Community Labor United, which convenes the Public Transit Public Good coalition. â€œNow more than ever, we need a safe, affordable, and accessible transit system that works for all.â€
â€œTransit justice is social justice,â€ said Jim Evers, President, Boston Carmenâ€™s Union, Local 589. â€œPublic transit is a public good, and weâ€™re in this fight for the long haul.â€
â€œThere are many neighborhoods that could become inaccessible without adequate public transportation, limiting the ability of people to access critical health services,â€ said Susan Backstrom, Member, GreenRoots. â€œThe MBTA and our elected officials need to consider the needs of the people in these neighborhoods before just cutting them off from the services they desperately need.â€
The rally-goers urged the FMCB to rethink these deep and long-term cuts and instead seek new revenues. President-Elect Biden has pledged hundreds of millions in infrastructure investments. Here in Massachusetts, progressive revenues could be generated by raising the corporate income tax rate and other measures. It is foolish to make drastic, long-lasting cuts when new resources could become available. Most of the proposed cuts would take place beginning in July 2021.
Riders throughout the MBTA system still take hundreds of thousands of trips a day to get to work, school, medical appointments, and other important destinations. The essential workers we rely on during the pandemic need reliable and uncrowded public transportation to get to and from work safely.
Hundreds of jobs will be lost if the MBTAâ€™s Fiscal Management and Control Board votes to approve proposed cuts. Sweeping layoffs across the system would further destabilize Massachusetts families and communities and leave the MBTA unable to quickly restart cut services as demand for public transit rebounds.
â€œWeâ€™re the ones keeping this system running,â€ said Karen Maxwell, Assistant Secretary, Boston Carmenâ€™s Union, Local 589. â€œCuts are not acceptable.â€
The pandemic-induced drop in fare revenue has exacerbated the MBTAâ€™s chronic underfunding and our Commonwealthâ€™s public transit system. Instead of cuts, the coalition asks the FMCB to focus instead on capturing sustainable, progressive, and equitable new revenue.â€
In its effort to make transit safe for our communities, the coalition announced that it would begin a sweeping advertising campaign hitting airwaves next week. Ads will air during primetime and daytime television on top-rated television stations, including CNN, MSNBC History, and CNBC. The campaign will also be featured on digital platforms.